Saturday 30 April 2011

Artistic Thanet pictures thoughts a holiday ramble

Here in the Ramsgate book business I have had more than the usual amount of time off recently, Easter has run into the royal wedding and will run on into the May day bank holiday.

The first batch of pictures date from Wednesday I think, nothing much of note apart from the drummer and the piano accordionist playing while walking along Harbour Parade, see  

Day off on Thursday and we had to go to Margate on book business, refreshments at the Turner Contemporary.

I see this gallery as a challenge, something that we have to learn here in Thanet, much in the same way as we learnt how to deal with the people who came here for the cure in the 1700s, the bathing machines in the 1800s and the amusements in the 1900s.

I don’t think standing back and saying I don’t understand contemporary art and the people who come here to look at is enough, we have to learn to understand and profit from this new and different approach.

Also we have to not be totally awed by the whole thing and not notice the problems as though we were devoid of the necessity to experience what our visitors experience.

I parked on the harbour arm, expensive, but probably something visitors would do, the parking machine there didn’t work properly, I put £4 in for four hours parking and it only allowed me two and a half hours.

The lift in the gallery was out of order, perhaps 100 locals got in it, it says maximum load 7500 kg or 100 persons, I think they are being rather optimistic if they think the average person weighs 75 kg here in Thanet.


One thing I did do was to take a close-up of the damage to the floor, this polished concrete is an important feature of the new gallery and I am not sure it should be down to me to get this put right.

The inevitable photographs are here

I had a pot of tea in the café at the gallery when I arrived £1.20 very good WiFi too all in all aver useful base to do Margate from.

The lethal stretch of road that looks like a pavement has developed a sign after Magritte.

Steak baguettes for lunch there too good and reasonable value at about £8 each inc drinks.

Pictures of food at the end of this page

We went for a pizza in Broadstairs on Friday at Osteria Posillipo Pizzeria, the pizzas are excellent there and the children debated if the best ice cream in the world came from there or Morellis.

This is a very good place to eat out if you have young children, pictures at

Back to normality at work in Ramsgate today, a few pictures of the, Save Our Nests art installation protest in Albion Gardens
 and the inevitable locals out walking their parrots see    

Ramsgate art installation protest at Albion Gardens

The deforestation of Albion Square Gardens has lead to an art installation protest there.

More pictures at initial investigations suggest that this one wasn’t funded by the Turner Contemporary, in fact who paid for the Christmas Trees in a bit of a mystery.  

Not sure if this is a Great Wall of Ramsgate art project either.  

Monday 25 April 2011

Turner Contemporary Margate Revisited, some more photographs of inside the gallery, some criticisms and problems.

Every new project is bound to have teething problems and attract some criticism and David Chipperfield’s turner contemporary is no exception.

If you are not familiar with this art gallery I would recommend you first look at the pictures I took of the inside if it last week, here are the links to the pages with them on:

You may also wish to read my blog post about my first visit, here is the link

Today’s pictures are on two pages, unedited straight from the camera card, here are the links:

I had my two youngest children with me and the way things worked out I took them both into the building for the first time separately, they both said it smells like a swimming pool, I had a good old sniff and couldn’t confirm this.

I meandered around with David Hockney in the back of my mind, the pictures are all natural light, with the obvious compensation for tungsten halogen and fluorescent, some fairly low shutter speeds all hand held, I took a tripod but didn’t use it, lens focal lengths between 10mm and 55mm, 35mm camera, sorry about the dirt in it, it’s worn out and needs replacing.

OK here comes the criticism.

The road layout outside the gallery is dreadful, one near miss and one minor accident in the short time we were there. It is summed up as fast traffic on a road full of pedestrians that looks like a pavement with badly placed traffic lights.

The surface is very porous paving slabs that are already badly stained with the oil from cars passing over it during the last week.

Inside the gallery the polished stone like textured concrete floors, that so impressed me last week, have been damaged by using the wrong cleaning equipment, not sure if this is covered by the insurance, in some places quite deep circular grooves have appeared in the surface.

Parts of the gallery were too hot on what it is a sunny April day, I don’t know if the climate control was set wrongly or is inadequate. A mixture of very large windows and the conservation of valuable works of art may cause problems.

One thing about the TC is they are very quick to rectify some errors, “closed Monday except bank holidays” is now prominently displayed at the top of their homepage.

I will start my criticism of the aesthetic on home ground, from the shop assistant perspective and point out that books published at $25 USD are not usually priced at £25 Stirling, like wot they are in TC shop.

Next the first artwork: “Borrowing and Multiplying the Landscape” by Daniel Buren.

As this is art, here is a novices description, yellow stripes with a big round hole in the middle stuck to one of the windows, with lots of mirrors stuck to the walls each side.

We probably shouldn’t limit art by attaching names to it, but the stripes look a bit abstract to me, think Margate, think deckchairs and all that and the rest of course is all done with mirrors.

I was dead influenced by this work and have been playing with reflections since I first saw it last week.

The problem if anything is that Daniel Buren is just too good at this sort of thing, he has looked at the gallery space and considered what should be there, so that frankly when the exhibit is taken away, it’s going to look, well missing.

I don’t really see how having one art exhibit stuck there all the time is going to help the TC, I mean if some artist or rich bod donated them a major artwork they could play the swaps game with other galleries, but not this one, it fits where it is.

From the shop assistants point of view though, the question We find surfacing in the back of our mind, like “what is the square root of minus one” is. Is it great art or a very good start on a shop window display? Where are the goods?

One thing that I am certain of it is a particularly helpful exhibit to the photographer, like having an extra camera attachment, so thanks Dan. Or should I say, so long and thatnks for all the affichages sauvages.

There is a bit of sense of pulling no punches with this exhibition, in most cases the gallery hasn’t attempted to go for contemporary art that anyone can understand. This failure, I suppose is best expressed it terms of the failed magician, you know what I mean they haven’t gone out of their way on the sawing in half front, not even a solitary half mouse, let alone a cow.

I suppose the exception is "arcadia" by Ellen Harvey, the mundane explanation of this one is the shed within the shed. Outside the shed is something that could very well be waves projected light that could very well be particles, opposite an arcade sign. Inside the shed lots of black and light pictures of Margate.

Various engravers have had a bit of a go at Thanet and my favourite, Henry Moses, even drew a map showing where he had done the drawings for the engravings, no this isn’t a criticism, I aint saying “lacks map” and the work is certainly going down well with the locals.

There are people standing in front of the pictures saying things like. “I like that one.” Almost like being at Ramsgate’s great wall.

I thought of the gallery stairs.

I understand it therefore I like it.

I don’t like it because I understand it.

I don’t understand art therefore I like it.

I like it therefore I understand art.

Sorry lots on knots RD pass the couch.

Sorry about that I have put my shop assistant hat back on. Here in the books business a lecturer in literature postulated the notion of T S Eliot’s influence on Shakespeare, admittedly he did so in a humorous novel. However this was a problem for me, now the Turner and I have tried with this painting, but I just don’t think it is a very good Turner. One thing about though is it makes me think of the Turners that I do think are very good paintings, there aren’t many very good English artists and Turner is the exception rather than the rule, he is world class. So I found on both occasions, my mid swirl with colours, mostly goldish and surrounding some sort of focused Turnerish lump, you know the train funnel one with the viaduct exploding in Turnerishness.

Anyway this is the problem with the next exhibit “The Perfect Third” by Conrad Shawcross, the influence of Turner on Shawcross approached from the influence of E Harvey on Turner, the light that is.

So there I am with my camera playing with The Perfect Third trying to photograph the people exploding into Turnerishness.


I will ramble on if I get time I hope to criticise the artworks on display in this exhibition next.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Easter Quex and Ramsgate pictures and a ramble

We spent this afternoon at The Powell Cotton Museum at Quex in Birchington, please appreciate I am working backwards in time with this post, the last batch of pictures will come first.

While I am explaining myself, I should point out with these long batches of photographs that my normal method when publishing pictures is to dump the contents of my camera card directly onto the internet and view them from there. This means that I often haven’t looked at the pictures properly when I publish the associated blog post. Here are the Quex pictures  

This weekend a combination of the friends of Quex and the Broadstairs Dickens week people have taken over and are offering a Victorian experience with penty to amuse children. Ours were amused.

This morning’s walk was up the east pier and I took a few pictures, here they are

I will add some more to this post later, if I get a chance. 


Saturday 23 April 2011

Great Wall Art Expedition Opens in Ramsgate Today, The Turner Contemporary’s Mistake Revealed, Tug Open Museum Shut.

Easter Saturday and a great art exhibition in Ramsgate opens officially, click on the link to their website

I was down there early this morning having a preview, there is a marked contrast between this exhibition and the one in the new Turner Contemporary, which is ordinary people talking to each other about the paintings.

You don’t need to have anyone paid to tell people what is art and why, people just seem to be able to work it all out for themselves, anyone doing a silly walk, is just someone doing a silly walk. 

Here are the pictures of the pictures taken this morning I think the exhibition is pretty much complete now.

I am also experimenting with pages of pictures small enough to open on a mobile internet phone, same images here smaller

Here are some pictures taken later on when the official opening was underway

there is some contrast between an art exhibition in Ramsgate and some others elsewhere, I will try to get around to deleting the worst of the pictures, at the moment you will have to edit them yourself, here are some more

they are uploading to the internet while I write this, I haven’t seen them either at this point, the rest should appear here soon

I belong to the slash and burn school of internet publishing, which essentially means having reduced the image size a bit, I just copy a whole batch at once and paste them onto the internet.

There may be some video footage later on. update here one is   

and another one

Update KOS has reported this event as The Great War of Ramsgate, either it’s typo of the week or thy know something that we don’t about the Royal Sands

A note of interest here is that one of the directors of KOS is related to one of the directors of Cardy’s. 

Next the Turner Contemporary Revealed gaff , during an inconvenient moment today I retired into the smallest room and there was this mag about Revealed, free poster on page 14, all about JWMT on page 6, our Trace on page 11, in fact the cat’s pyjamas not the dog’s sphericals you understand.

As a fan I rushed to page? OMG no page numbers, anyone know if I have a special rare edition, or do all the other copies of the mag lack navigation.     

The Ocean Going Steam Tug Cervia moored in Ramsgate Harbour, is also open to the public over this weekend. Considerable work has been done on this restoration project, I took a few pictures of it right at the start of the restoration, see four pages of pictures links to the other pages at the top of the first page. Oh an a video of this too.

Ramsgate Maritime Museum however hasn’t opened for Easter, as we hoped it would. 

I will continue this post as I get time between customers in the bookshop

Friday 22 April 2011

Thanet Election Special

Sitting on Westbrook beach yesterday I tried to read the Thanet Conservative Manifesto on my rather old mobile internet phone, this thing is known by my children as Dad’s RaspBerry and dates from when mobile internet was expensive and exclusive, all I got was a message saying “file type not supported”

This post is in an experimental stage at the moment, click on the image to enlarge it and you will notice the dog in the sky.

I will add to it once I have made sure I can read all three parties manifestos on my RaspBerry   

Conservative Manifesto 

Labour Manifesto

Liberal Democrat Manifesto

List of candidates

My postal voting form has now turned up and I am left with the problem that I have only had one flyer, that was from Gerry O’Donnell and spoken to two of the candidates, Gerry O’Donnell and David Green.

I am in the Eastcliff ward, run shop in the middle of it and have been asking everyone I know who lives in this ward if they know anything about any of the other candidates.

As a starting point local politicians who reply to reasonable questions about local issues get my vote.

Funny thing local democracy while all this is going on the real players in the game and the people who cost us the most are being switched around with no public input whatsoever. Richard Samuel replaced by Sue McGonigal, Brian White replaced by Glen Black and so on.

Even more ludicrous is the business of us electing the council leader, you will remember the council held what they called a public consultation about this and all the people who responded said they would rather elect a leader than have one chosen by one of the local political groups. The council decided they didn’t like this idea so didn’t even consider it. Well that’s public consultation for you. So ultimately I suppose the choice now is between Clive Hart and Bob Bayford.

I am usually pretty restrained about using names here but at the moment these names are all published elsewhere on the web.

What I am asking. Who? Myself really I suppose, is what are we engaging in here and why do so few people bother to vote, is it democracy? You can chose between these two leaders.

Obviously the election is going to be a pretty close run thing, suppose the balance of power is held by the independents, frankly with most of my candidates being unknowns and some of the independents being very well known, there is certainly a chance.

On the one day of the year when crucifying our leaders is in some of our minds, perhaps humanity need to do this sort of thing from time to time, I wonder if we should investigate some of our historical methods of leadership.

At some time before the conquest there has been a suggestion that it was the person who could pee furthest up the mast of a longship who was destined to rule.

This seemed to be a bit jumbled up with the best fighters, local lords often went out into the middle east to fight for a bit, it was the crusades then, perhaps now the grail could be substituted for the oil supply.

I think here in Thanet a local Knight, the prior or abbess of the local monastery, slowly moved to the prominent figures in the local trades guilds the burgers ruling, of course the bishop would have been involved too.

Broadstairs Reflections

I did my best with this lot of photos but am a bit bleary this morning, it was a very noisy night here, I believe there was a stabbing in Ramsgate, which I am sure the local news sites will cover in the fullness of time.

Sorry my camera is getting in a right old state and I really need to replace it, it hasn’t been the same since I sneezed when changing a lens, I washed the sensor in surgical spirit, don’t try this at home, and will Hoover it out later on if I get around to it.

Anyway here are the photos, from the camera card the two in this post are upside down mirror images a concept I am playing with at the moment.  

Thursday 21 April 2011

Reflections on Margate, a Turner Failure

 I had hoped to get some pictures of The Turner Contemporary building glowing golden today, I haven’t given up with trying to photograph the building in its setting so that it looks pleasing to me or somehow in context.

Some sort of artistic achievement on my part but I failed today. Having been up close I now know that it is definitely coated in glass, but I haven’t yet been in the right place at the right time to see any significant effect.

 I took some pictures today, here is they are

Another thing I have been doing over the last few days is trying to get an answer from the leader of the council about an important issue, in fact an answer at all; perhaps he is otherwise engaged.

Just remembered I intended some sort of artistic theme to this weeks posts, as the pictures were a failure, here is a tribute to the poet William Carlos Williams.

Light hearted Robert curled

his December stubble

and, half mazed, looked

from the council window

upon the spring weather.

Heigh-ya! sighed he gaily

leaning out to see

up and down the street

where a heavy sunlight

lay beyond some blue shadows.

Into the room he drew

his head again and laughed

to himself quietly

curling his green stubble.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Midweek Ramble

Truth is I am a bit sleepy.

Too sleepy for my blog?

Too sleepy for my blog.

I don’t know really so we will see, the children are very loud too.

I have decided to produce artistic pictures to head the blog this week, I think this is due to the influence of the Turner Contemporary, so apologies.

The internet has been being a bit difficult this week, quite a few of the 100,000 or so images that I have published online have become corrupted, so apologies again.

Some problems with the blog too, people’s comments have been vanishing or not appearing I think I have managed to reinstate them pretty quickly, but apologies again.

The Pleasurama cliff façade has been a nuisance and has consumed a lot of time, this is like some sort of comic saga, where you get the feeling that if you don’t keep your eye on the situation there may be a nasty accident.

The whole thing needs looking at by an independent civil engineer, nothing to do with any part of government or any one who has had any part in it so far.

At the moment the contractor is digging the ground away at the bottom of the thing, fortunately along the bit that appears to have been most professionally built and built in the 1930s as far as I can tell from studying old photographs.

I am seeing this as a trial run for the next bit that looks Jerry-built and I expect to give much more in the way of problems.

Anyway the problem is that the as the council have spent so much of our money on this structure, they are saying to the contractor that it’s fine to dig around its foundations, build residential accommodation next to it and so on.

I don’t think the council or the council’s consulting engineers have reached a stage where they really understand how it is constructed yet and this despite spending £1m on it.

At the moment we are on the arched part of the façade and the council appear to think that the panels are concrete block walls. They must be the report prepared by their engineers says they are see

Well after a few brushes about this structure with the HSE recently, I started to come to the conclusion that their prime directive was to make sure that any other part of government didn’t get into trouble, with safety somewhat further down the line.

After a bad start apparently the HSE didn’t do foi, this is what they had to say:
“Thus it would not be appropriate for HSE to release any material that has been obtained as part of our regulatory functions.
However in respect of FOI – it may be appropriate for you to direct that request to Thanet Council and Cardy – who as the originators of relevant information may be able to make it available to you if it meets the relevant FOI criteria.”

It came to light that they had a whole foi department just waiting to take about two moths to send me the information I asked for.

So here are the plans that they based their judgment on  funny thing though the fifth sheet down, the council seem to have supplied the plans for a completely different structure.

Drawing sheet 3437 502 shows properly constructed block infills to an arched façade, with cantilever foundations cut into the chalk cliff, the blocks are tied both to the cliff and the and the support pillars, the blocks are all tied together using reinforcing rods, drain holes with shingle bed surrounds, in fact everything one would hope for.

So what has really happened with this arched bit, I think this is the original design for the arched part  and that to start with the bits between the arches were bare chalk, apart from a bit of concrete going up about six feet.

I think that the top plan on this page  shows a modification, which is a six inch thick poured concrete panel, reinforced with steel mesh, no blocks at all.

I am pretty sure that it is fairly safe, however I am not a civil engineer and it seems that all of the civil engineers that said it was safe based their assumptions on it being a block wall, does this inspire confidence?

Enough of that, I just wanted my blog readers to understand some of the difficulties involved here.

One of things that interests me in the way reflections work, hence the picture above, the brain sees something containing a reflection and somehow turns it into something that makes sense.

Obviously if you click on the picture above to enlarge it and try and follow the line between reality and reflected reality you will encounter some problems, you may even think I have engaged in some sort of trickery and moved things around.

All I did was invert it and turn it into a mirror image, however a mirror image of a mirror image is beyond our normal visual faculties.  

A step further than fooling some of the people some of the time.

This is only because you can’t of course see the reflective surface, so under normal circumstances your brain invents it, as I normally do I have published the contents of my camera card and the pictures I took with the intention of inverting are near the bottom of the page

I suppose what I am trying to get across with my series of artistic pictures is to do with the Turner Contemporary and how local people are looking at it.

There is much comment about it on most of the blogs, all of this seems to be missing anything relating to the exhibitions that are on there, I am assuming that the intention is to provide visual art, and as this is contemporary art, to provide something beyond the normal visual experience.

I didn’t think that the exhibitions there quite managed to achieve this, particularly in terms of opening local peoples eyes to this, perhaps the exhibitions there were too advanced for us, so I have been trying to achieve something along theses lines with the series of blog header pictures.

We now have an art gallery in our midst, as entry is free not going to see inside it is about as daft as living in Thanet and not ever going to see Ramsgate Harbour.

Like it or not contemporary art is now part of Thanet, and one thing we have to get good at is making sure the contemporary art we get is good contemporary art, if local people don’t start looking at the art exhibits more than twice, talking about them, trying to understand them then I don’t think it will be successful.

Oh and I have a complaint about taking children paddling in the sea, jelly shoes seem to have been uninvented and don’t even talk about crocks that falloff and float away.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Foundations Found at Royal Sands Ramsgate Pleasurama. An Apology and Thanks from Me

It’s all too easy to publish to the internet, unless Conroy Maddox has been using your keyboard as I am sure all of the art lovers who attended the Turner Contemporary will understand.

Many thanks to the contractor Cardy Construction for chipping the chalk off of one of the foundations to a support pillar, that is part of the concrete structure of the arches, part of the Pleasurama cliff façade and sending me a picture.

I genuinely think that it is safe to walk on the cliff top footpath now, something I will be doing again.

Here is the picture and this is what they have to say about it.

“Dear Michael

As recently discussed please find the attached photograph of the exposed column foundation.  The location of concrete highlighted in red extending below the excavation level passed the dotted line would indicate the foundations are built as described within the historic drawings.  It would appear that the concrete was originally cast against chalk and not shuttered therefore causing the surface of the concrete to appear uneven.  We have washed the concrete off as much as possible and driven steel rods into the foundation which appears to be of sound construction.


This, like so many historical engineering puzzles, has a solution that probably involves practices that wouldn’t occur today.

What happened in this case was that having cut a slot about three feet wide and about three feet deep, going up the seventy foot high bare chalk cliff above, they got some poor chap to get in the bottom of the slot and dig a hole eight and a half feet deep in solid chalk.

I think this picture (I have put coloured lines on the original 1930s plan and sorry about the drawing of the bloke, my children are better at using MS Paint) explains what this is about.

Viewed from the side on.

The red line is the outline of the concrete pillar.

The green line the original line of the ground before the contractor dug out the ground next to the cliff about a fortnight ago.

The brown line about where they have dug the ground down to now.

The blue bit shows where the concrete block walls between the arches are.

Having solved one problem that is a mixture of industrial archaeology and civil engineering, like so many other things in life that leaves us with another problem and more questions.

Can anyone think of a way that they could have got the foundations in for the infill walls between the arches? The most they could be are nine inches thick, I think, not room enough for a man to get inside.

You can see from on the right hand side of Cardy’s photo that the virgin chalk seems to go right up to the bottom of the block wall.

Are there any foundations under the concrete block infills? If there are, do they extend down as far as the contractor has dug down? Are the concrete block infills tied to the pillars either side? In the simplest terms, is there a danger of block infill walls falling on the people working on the building site next to them?

I don’t know how far down you can dig a nine inch wide foundation trench in solid chalk with a shovel, but would doubt it is as far as the chalk has been dug down next to bottom of the block wall.

The pictures should all expand if you click on them.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Pictures of Inside The Turner Contemporary a Margate Ramble

I went to Margate this morning, to see both the new Turner Contemporary Art Gallery and to look at the first art exhibition there.

I arrived before the gallery opened and wandered around a bit first, a few parts of the landscaping outside of the gallery are obviously not finished yet, including what appears to be the largest concrete flowerpot I have ever noticed.

Most of what is there inside and outside the gallery should be pretty obvious from the pictures, however one thing you can't explain is the smoothness of the concrete surfaces that  feel like polished stone.

I walked around the gallery and the town a bit, trying to find a notepad and a pen and have to thank the lady in Remembrance Angel who gave me both.

There was a very loud alarm going off on an empty building opposite the gallery, fortunately this stopped after a while.

Eventually I came at the gallery from what must have been the tradesman’s entrance or something so I arrived before it opened, on the inside of the barriers that were there to control any crowds, that could have turned up.

This takes you to the end of this page of pictures

Eventually I gravitated to the kitchen, in order to check that what was going on there would be ok when the gallery opened, fortunately people are usually kind to me in kitchens.

I have sampled the wares there and you can be assured that it is a good place to eat.

The staff are charming too as you can see from the pictures. I then went into the gift and bookshop, the gallery opened about this time.

I think this should take you up to the end of this page of pictures

Next I had an inconvenient moment probably due to the way I gravitate towards kitchens, and obviously a chat with the chap cleaning the loo, he says that it is hard work to keep clean, but he thinks that it’s a fantastic building.

Then to James Webb’s marvellous picture of Margate, and on to some good and bad stairs, to view Etagram, this was the only work in this room, either intentionally or they intend to hang some more pictures, not sure really.

On to the Russell Crotty exhibits, I contemplated being employed to turn the pages of the very large books and wondered what happened to the gallery attendant who tore a page.

And then to the shed within the shed, Arcadia, this contains Ellen Harvey’s illuminated Plexiglas etchings of Margate, my favourite part of the exhibition and by far the most difficult to photograph, sorry about the results.

That takes you to the end of this page of pictures

I wasn’t that keen on the Turner, this isn’t one of my favourite pictures of his, I played about with the camera at this point tying to get Turner like effects, this sort of affected behaviour is I know rather embarrassing, so please accept my apologies. Especially to Conrad Shawcross whose exhibits I used as a background for this tomfoolery in the next gallery.

You may also note that the Turner gallery has a very big lift, most galleries do, but not always available for the public to use, it had the inevitable attendant as I expect it was expensive.

At this point I did what most Englishmen do when confronted potentially embarrassing situations and went in search of a pot of tea, served in a civilised fashion.

This takes you up to the end of this page of pictures.

Next tea in Puffins Café, very civilised, pot of the with proper china for £1.20, something I considered to be excellent value.

Then into Artists Open Studios on the harbour arm, some good quality work here as you can see from the pictures of the pictures, I hope.

That should take you to the end of this page.

Past the shell ladies and on to the Imperial Art Gallery and a few pictures of the people on the beach and into the old town. I was surprised to find the Community pharmacy Gallery closed. Punch and Judy were amusing the children, well I suppose you can see from the pictures. Into Outside the Square Gallery where they told me that I couldn’t take any pictures, this threw me a bit,

That takes you to the end of this page

I took a few more pictures but was flagging a bit by then see so I went back to Ramsgate. 

 I will ramble on and add more pictures as the mood takes me. 

Saturday 16 April 2011

Royal Sands Development, Pleasurama Site Ramsgate Cliff Safety Response From Thanet District Council.

I have received a response from the council which they have asked me to publish on this blog relating to my concerns about the foundations that support the cliff façade, the base of which has recently been partly exposed by the contractor.

I have also received a response from the contractor via Laura Sandys MP, who is the MP for this constituency.

First an explanation for anyone who either hasn’t been following this issue or hasn’t understood it properly.    

The two pictures above show the bottom of the concrete cliff façade support pillar marked with red dots and what appears to be virgin (undug) chalk below it. 

The picture should get bigger if you click on it and even bigger if you click on it again. 
This picture shows you where this is and I have drawn a red line around the area shown in the two first pictures.  
This is a detail from the original design plans for the pillar supplied to me under foi legislation from the HSE, it is a side on view of the pillar.

I have added coloured lines to it to help explain what is where. The red line shows where the front of the pillar should be. The green line the ground level before the contractor started excavating. The blue line is roughly where I think they have dug down to. The purple line roughly where the virgin chalk has been cut back to.

As I can’t work out how the foundation was put beneath the virgin chalk, without digging it up and the front of the pillar doesn’t follow the line shown in the design drawing I have concerns about the integrity of this structure.

I discovered this situation last Saturday and asked Kent Fire and Rescue if they would examine it and close the footpath above it while more detailed investigations were made.

Kent Fire and Rescue investigated the area, confirmed that they couldn’t find and sign of foundations but told me that as the council had told them that the cliff was safe, they were not able to close the footpath.

Below is the response I have received by email from the council’s engineer Mike Humber signed by the council’s Director of Regeneration services Brian White which they have asked me to publish here.   

15 April 2011
Our ref: BJW/BH
Your ref:
Dear Mr. Child
I am writing in response to your interest regarding the cliff wall to the rear of the Royal Sands
(formerly ‘Pleasurama’ site at Ramsgate. Your concern being that the cliff wall has no proper
foundations, and is therefore at risk. A site visit was made on Monday 11 April by Mr. Mike Humber,
the Council’s Engineer and myself. The ground has been excavated adjacent to the cliff wall in
recent weeks to enable work on the foundations to the Royal Sands development to proceed.
Consequently chalk is visible in places at a level beneath the cliff wall façade, and this has led you to
believe that there may be no foundations supporting the cliff wall itself.
However the point that you have missed on your inspections is that there are substantial concrete
foundations, to a minimum depth of two metres, beneath each of the main supporting columns to the
cliff wall. This was verified during our site inspection.
Records exist of the design of the original cliff wall dating from the early part of the 20th century in the
form of a construction drawing and I believe you already have a copy of this. The observations made
on site this week confirm that the foundation provision appears to be as described on the drawing. It
can be seen that the foundations and columns were both cast insitu with the columns exhibiting a
regular finish from timber formwork whilst the foundations were cast against the hand excavated face
of bare virgin chalk. I suggest that it is this interface between these two very different concrete
finishes that you have misinterpreted as the base of the concrete structure. Although recessed a
little, the foundation does continue well below this elevation as confirmed above.
I do trust that this letter draws your concern to a satisfactory conclusion. Thank you for your interest
in the subject. Perhaps you might post a copy of this letter on your blog.
Whilst writing, because of your interest also in the engineering history of Ramsgate Harbour I thought
I would draw your attention to the pending completion of a new floating concrete breakwater in the
Outer Harbour area. This is the single biggest investment the Council has made in the Harbour for
some 20 or so years. The new floating breakwater will not only protect the Eastern Marina, it will also
provide satisfactory berthing for work boats used in the construction and ongoing operation of the
London Array offshore windfarm. The Council is very pleased with the new structure, a large portion
of the funding was provided through European Union grant.
Yours sincerely
B White
Director of Regeneration Services
Tel: 01843 577007
cc. Cheryl Pendry
Mike Humber"

Below is my response to them 

"Dear Brian and Mike.

I have to admit the saga of this cliff wall is a bit of a difficult one, but as the wretched thing doesn’t conform to the design drawings I feel it best to err on the safe side. Most particularly as the previous two problems I reported to the council, the bulging panel and the 1860s balustrade both resulted in council action to repair the problem.

God alone knows how that 1860s balustrade is supposed to work, if it has foundations and how much water is getting in from behind. Did you know that when the railway extension from Herne Bay to Ramsgate was put in, in the 1860s the government inspector, Captain Rich condemned much of the civil engineering work including several of the bridges, which had to be rebuilt?

I am still concerned that I haven’t got any evidence that there is sound concrete all the way between the bottom of the visible concrete pier and the rough cast concrete that you have discovered at the at the bottom of the recent excavation.

Have you either exposed continuous concrete between the bottom of the pier and the bottom of the excavation, carried out a driven rod or bore test this in this area?

The reason I ask this is that the chalk at the bottom of the pillar doesn’t have the appearance of made ground and I can’t see how the back of a load spreading foundation or the bottom of the pillar could have been constructed without disturbing the chalk.

As we have discussed before the façade isn’t a load bearing structure and I am particularly concerned that heavy vehicles are accessing the cliff edge while below excavations are being made of foundations that don’t conform to exactly the design drawings i.e a uniformly cast liner pillar extending down to the foundations.

After the arched part of the façade (visibly the most sound and professionally constructed part) the contractor will presumably excavate in front the less linier portal part of the façade where both the pinning took place and the contractor has already discovered and documented one pillar with inadequate foundations sitting on made ground.

In short the risks of a normal building site appear to have been adequately addressed apart from the added problem of the proximity of the public footpath to the edge of the cliff.

I am not asking that this be permanently closed while the building work is in progress, something would I think be unnecessary and damaging to the town’s economy.

Just that the parts above excavation of any part of the base of the façade that doesn’t conform precisely to the design drawings is closed while investigations are made and of course some emergency signage warning people not to drive anywhere near the cliff edge.

Best regards Michael"
I have also had a response from Laura Sandys informing me that the contractor, Cardy Construction will “further expose a section of the foundation and provide Michael with photographic evidence of the existing foundation,”

I have added a link to a series of linked webpages showing some of the various technical reports on the cliff façade structure 

Thursday 14 April 2011

David Chipperfield, The Turner Contemporary, architecture at Sea in Thanet a bit of a ramble.

I was born in the same year as David Chipperfield and so I suppose there must be some common ground, I once worked for a different Chipperfield, who ran a fun fair. My main connection with Margate is that I was employed as an engineer working on the various sites owned by Associated Leisure sometime in the early 1970s. This was the firm that owned Dreamland, the Lido and most of the amusement arcades along what used to be known as Margate’s Golden Mile. I have always been fascinated by electromechanical and electronic control of machines and for a while it was amusement machines that interested me.

With this new building opening to the public at the weekend I feel I have some affinity with Margate, the architect and the building, I also have an interest in art and our local architecture, so here goes some sort of post.

Major public architectural structures on the foreshore in Thanet nearly all have an unusual history and The Turner Contemporary has already one of its own, most people will remember Snohetta and Spence's design and the prototype that failed its test when the sea washed it away. After this a much more practical approach to constructing a building on the foreshore was adopted, a proper professional flood risk assessment has been carried out for David Chipperfield’s Turner Contemporary so I is unlikely to be washed away, as Margate Pier was. Like it or not here in Thanet we have probably got it for a long time.

I know people have likened it to a shed, a gun emplacement and various other things, when I first saw the design drawings, the first thing that occurred to me was that it looks like a series of heads of K9 without ears. You can’t help what your mind does and perhaps it is best not to mention this sort of thing, but I don’t think it matters here as I don’t think the finished building looks like K9.

In a sense this weekends opening is the third opening of the Turner Contemporary in Margate, as it has previously opened in the old M&S building and The Droit House, lets hope it is a case of third time lucky. The two previous incarnations have seemed to me to be a bit underwhelming, attracting almost no interest at all. I have visited almost all of the exhibitions in both buildings and apart from the people working there I have usually been the only person looking at the exhibition.

With the Droit House I got the feeling that much of what was happening there was fake, the silly walks, the attempts to encompass local history into art which seemed to missing the vital ingredient, a local historian. Perhaps it was the ambience of the building, which is of course a fake itself, the original having been dispatched by Hitler.

Contemporary art and architecture is elitist, and there is a sense that the new building has been designed for the benefit of the elite inside it, from the outside it looks utilitarian, there is I agree some elegance to it when viewed from some angles, but there is no doubt the prime utility is for those inside.

There is also the sense that both contemporary art and architecture generates an emperor’s no clothes situation, this was particularly evident in the Droit House at some times, where there was a very real sense that the staff were being careful not to leave anything about that wasn’t supposed to be art that could be mistaken for art.

There is also a sense in seaside architecture that is intending to be something that it isn’t, the only other famous architect that I know of to design something that was actually built down on the Thanet foreshore was Stanley Davenport Adshead who designed Ramsgate’s Royal Victoria Pavilion, built in 1904. This was supposed to look like Little Theatre at Versailles, like the Droit House we can call this a fake, it was intended to be one from its first inception.

Well Ramsgate’s Royal Victoria Pavilion hasn’t succumbed to Hitler, hasn’t been washed away like the mock up of Turner 1, or the adjacent Margate Pier, but is has become a victim of circumstance, see

My understanding was that the new gallery was going to be coated in glass and glow in the sun, either this hasn’t worked, I haven’t seen it or the idea was dropped for some reason. Has anyone seen it glowing, or isn’t it supposed to?

I think all of the main Thanet blogs have been unkind about the whole idea of building this gallery, this is a quote from Thanet Life, probably Thanet’s oldest blog:

“Why the fiscally challenged planners at Kent County Council in conjunction with Thanet Council, believe that opening a gallery in a famous artist’s name, with none of his paintings on display, will suddenly transform Margate into a cultural Mecca and attract hordes of cultural day-trippers is anyone’s guess.”

Well they have managed one Turner and admittedly it is one of the few Turners not painted from life but based on a sketch by another artist, so once again it is a bit of self confessed fake.

We certainly haven't got what we first expected which was a gallery that looked like a huge pebble on the beach, perhaps the question here is not so much does it look like an art gallery? But will it look like an art gallery? If it becomes famous enough people will look at this shape and think, art gallery, if it fails to then I suppose they will continue to look at this shape and depending on who they are they will think, shed, gun emplacement, K9, this is all something to do with what art is about, that it is something that has changed people from seeing a particular representation of a can of soup and experiencing artistic appreciation instead of. What? Seeing a can of soup.

Just as a further note if you are getting a warning saying that this site has a virus on it today, you need to update your virus checker.  

A few pictures of Ramsgate and Canterbury and a mild ramble

It’s my day off today and I have been to Canterbury bought a few books, taken a few pictures nothing much I think, the pictures are being published to the internet as I type this, so I won’t see them until they are there as I am using my notebook and the screen is far to small either to edit or sift out the bad ones, so apologies if some are dreadful.

The first page are Ramsgate last couple of days, I indulged myself in bacon egg chips and a cup of tea at the Lookout Café, hence the picture if you were wondering, as always excellent value.

I may add a bit more about the pictures when I have seen them,

Here are the links to the pages of pictures

they shouldhave all appeared on the internet by about 8pm

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Turner Contemporary new work of art

I have done my best with a picture of a Margate sunset here but am more of a snapper than a photographer, however nothing I could do could compete with the latest video work of art on their media channel at

I have embedded it below so you can enjoy it without waiting for their rather slow website to open.

I find that there is something humbling about great art, knowing that I have helped to contributed to funding it makes me feel. Well. I walk that little bit taller, don’t you?  

Dangerous Cliffs and Cliff Collapses in Ramsgate

Over the period of time that have been interested in The Royal Sands development on the old Pleasurama site, I have developed an interest and some understanding of the various cliff structures here.

This has reached the point where I can now identify situations where there are likely to be problems and have started reporting potentially dangerous situations to the various authorities that deal with this.

The last bit of dangerous cliff I reported was in October of last year, see I reported this to the council, and they assured me that it was safe, as it didn’t look safe to me and there is a public footpath under one bit and the people building the Royal Sands development working under the other bit, I reported this to the Health and Safety Executive. That was at the beginning of the week, by the middle of the week nothing seem to have happened so I rang the HSE up, they told me that the council’s engineer had assured them that there wasn’t a problem and that they were going to take no further action. Over the following weekend a lump of masonry, big enough to kill someone underneath it, fell of it. Now it has safety fencing round the bottom of the cliff. 

This area of the cliff at the is a bit of a hot spot for cliff problems, I don’t think the guns helped, all shook up is phrase that come to mind.

The bit where Augusta Steps is collapsed in the 1960s whatever it is about this area of the cliff confused the civil engineers that repaired it as it collapsed again halfway through the repairs.

Pugin the architect had a bit of a problem with one of the Ramsgate cliffs, I don’t think anything else he designed actually collapsed.

He put this gallery into the cliff next to his house The Grange, so that he could observe the shipping and get down to the sea.

As you can see from the pictures it collapsed in 1947, I am not suggesting that he was an incompetent architect, just that our cliffs are not very predictable.

One of the few places that people have attempted to build against the cliff in Ramsgate is Pegwell, usually any building is incorporated into the cliff part of it being an arched structure, like the existing buildings on Harbour Parade, Marina Esplanade or beside the harbour.

As you can see this didn’t work out too well.

The power of these collapses can be quite astonishing, hundreds of tons of chalk and concrete goes where it wants to.

As you can see in the pictures of this collapse at The Paragon in 1958 the bent things are steel girders.

Finally the problem with the Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama Site at the moment.

At the moment things are not looking so good there as the foundations seem to be missing and the concrete cliff wall undermined. I have been discussing this structure on and off with the council for some time.

The first time I noticed there was something odd about its foundations was in January 2008, at this time the council had just started the major repairs to the cliff and had contracted a firm of specialist engineers to supervise the £1m contract to repair the cliff.

I went onto the site and had a chat with the site engineer and a look at the foundations of the cliff wall, wasn’t happy with what I saw and wrote to their chief engineer who I had already supplied some historic photographs of the cliff to.

This is what he had to say:

“The foundations of the facade is on a mass concrete base some 2 metres thick and founded on what would appear to be good sound chalk. I shall be very surprised if there is any cause for concern. *** would not be party to the development works as his brief is to act as the Resident Engineer on behalf of Thanet District Council for the facade improvement works only, however he is employed by ****.

There is no need to underpin the facade, as the original site inspection showed that there is no evidence of subsidence. I will be on site on Thursday to carry out an overview of the works.”

The next time I went on the site and made a thorough inspection of the cliff wall was in November 2009, see this eventually resulted in a repair to the repair.

There have been other occasions but I won’t bore you with any more.

Now we have a situation once again where I have reported a problem with the cliff wall and am awaiting events. I expect sooner or later I shall be wrong and there won’t be a problem.

What worries me this time is that I have asked the council to close the footpath above the cliff because I think there possibility of a cliff collapse and a danger to human life, I have only asked them to this while they assess the situation as a precaution, so far I haven’t even had a reply from them.
Blogger is behaving a bit strangely at the moment, a lot of the anonymous comments are going into the spam folder and I haven’t deleted anyone’s comments recently, but if you comment and it doesn’t appear immediately, please accept my apologies.

There are so many pictures in this post that it was easiest to put them all at the end and label them up afterwards.     

Pictures of the collapse at The Paragon in 1958 below

Pictures of the collapse at Pegwell in 1947 below 

Pictures of the collapse at Pugin’s gallery collapse in 1947 below 

Pictures of the Augusta Steps is collapses in the 1960s below 

The guns at Wellington Crescent